One of the primary causes of obesity in Amerika is electronics.
I discovered yesterday that Friday morning at 0530 is a good time to go to the hospital emergency room. Not for me, but the maternal parental element who, it turned out, had to be admitted for further testing. And that in its Chinese Fire Drill entirety is why no blot yesterday.
Today is sorta another matter. The skies have opened, as the old saying goes, at the apparent behest of the weather beavers. Soggy. Very soggy.
And I noted [Link] that some U California wonks are going to gather a sufficient quantity of anti-matter to see if it has positive or negative gravitational mass.
This is the sort of thing that sounds exciting and Richard Ballenger Seaton to the mediaists. Sadly, it is rather hum drum terrorizing. All the theory indicates that antimatter has the same kind of gravitational mass as regular matter, it’s just an oleo of the anti-particles that not-anti-matter is made of. But it is an experiment that needs to be done, just for testability.
The nasty part of it is that such a large amount of anti-matter is needed that care must be taken not to BOOM!
Incidentally, that BOOM would be a REAL weapon of mass “destruction”, not what the Yankee government says one is.
Tuesday. I sometimes wonder if that is supposed to be Two’s Day? After all, in our modern work-outside-the-home norm, Tuesday is the second day of the week. And if so, then we can view the first day as Mundane day, shortened to Monday?
Anyway, second day is an off day at the gym, most people evidently doing the MWF thing, operating on the idea that one needs to exercise thrice a week? I admit to being tempted to going some Freya’s day to see if there are more or less folks about than on Thor’s day.
The podcasts today were science episodes. I can honestly say I don;t remember much about the SCIENCE episode other than the rather noxious commercial for audio-books. Not that I have anything against them, except the exorbitant price. After all, I do the podcast thing. But I do get sticker shock and focus on the reduced retention of heard over seen. Besides, if I did audio books I would be able to get rid of my television and then how could I demonstrate I am an Amerikan?
There was a rather nice bit from Abe Flato and NPR on antibiotic resistant microbes. Made the best case I have heard yet for not using antispetics, especially ethanol based gels, outside of medicalist facilities. Undoubtedly this episode will be unpopular with educationalists who seem to use hand sanitizer more to promote auto-immune disorders and dispose of kids than to prevent disease? Or am I being too cynical? Clearly their teaching content indicates a counter-survival direction.
On a more positive aspect, I ran across an article [Link] with the wonderful title of “This Just in: Higgs Boson Still Boring”. I found this humorous although possibly not in the sense that the author intended. The title refers to the attitude of the general public – extrovert bogs in the main – towards the Higgs boson. Now that it has been observed, the boggerate is expecting great deed, like the generation of gravitational singularities that consume the planet, or flying cars. I am not sure which of those is the more frightening. The latter I think. The idea of the sky full of all those people who can’t drive cars competently, led by all the drivers of pickup trucks who are not only incompetent but homicidal as well, is enough to make one want to move to a third world country where there are no personal vehicles that are not propelled by muscle.
But this is one of the reasons I decided long ago to not pursue a path in particle physics. It’s a bit like astronomy. You have to live in some place that doesn’t like humans – not that Alibam is much better, mind you – and wheedle enormous amount of money from someone to build instruments and share those instruments with lots of other folks in a structure that is uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst to conduct experiments that are exciting only if they generate surprise.
That’s one of the differences between scientists and engineers, incidentally. Scientists get excited when things go wrong in a surprising way; Engineers get excited when things go right in a surprising way.
The HIggs, incidentally, basically hasn’t been a surprise.
My favorite direction, dissipative systems, give me surprises every day, because dissipation is sneaky and perverse. But sometimes amenable to being beaten into submission with physics. Which counteracts, at least locally, the sneakiness and perversion.
And that’s one of the things science is about.
Yesterday was one of those days where the mind just did not go to blogging. So perhaps we can do a bit of make-up today.
First, I noticed an article [Link] about an Atlanta law firm that only hires college graduates for its clericals. I think this is supposed to be a case study but given the state of Amerikan journalism that point is never made, so we are uncertain of the generality. The idea is a bit sticky, as in pointed stick, in several directions. It makes the fate of those who drop out of high shule doubly damning. It also tends to confirm the horrible things we have said about the deterioration of college education. Or its extinction. I am not quite sure which. But in an age when education is a diploma, knowledge is hen’s teeth.
I was taken by one comment, that the college degree is a good way to discriminate and discard a lot of resumes. With so many young (?) people unemployed, I suppose there are lots of resumes and human resource tyrants have to find ways to preserve their life styles. But it also smacks of the idea that most of these people get that diploma knowing what their parents learned in high shule. It was also obliquely and gradually evident that these are the kids who chose unwisely, not choosing to major in the employable disciplines. And since what they studied is unpayable, the party atmosphere of college is perhaps a bit explained. It may very well be the Masque of the Red Death.
But it is what this portends that is especially damning. High shule has become irrelevant, largely, I suspect, by the corruption of Every Child Left Behind. By teaching the test, what knowledge the graduates have is unmarketable. The promise of education is individuality, not commonality. And we seem unable to comprehend that in this modern age. We have sunk far below Lang’s Metropolis. Nor will this save the colleges. Instead, the vast population of marginals will become the cash cow of those who are central and education will become even more generic and grittish.
Not that it seems to matter. The rumblings about the meteors whizzing by (and into) Tellus continue with no sign of anything concrete to be done except increasing the depths of global warming. The article [Link] in Scientific American is indicative of how the editors are trying to revitalize the magazine but haven’t been successful yet. I was however, taken by two closing paragraphs:
“In the 15-meter size range, we think it happens about every 50 years. It’s been more than 100 years since we’ve seen something of this size, but statistically it happens approximately every 50 years.
When you consider all the areas of the Earth that are uninhabited—the oceans, the ice caps, the deserts and so on—it’s very surprising that this happened over such a populated area. Very unlucky.”
The first at least shows a bit of knowledge of statistics and probability, while the second is appallingly boggific. And contradictory. If the mean time between strikes of this size meteor is 50 year and it has been 100 – patently a number extracted from the air – then we have been lucky, or fortunate, or whatever bog term one wants to use to anthropomorphize a random process. But note not a byte about prevention.
A somewhat more useful approach [Link] is this map
of the density of meteor strikes over the last 2.3 KY. Note how it looks like a map of the land surfaces of Tellus times the cosine of angle above( below) the equator. Why this is left to the student to shew. But a hint: consider presented area. And population density. Until the last few years if peoples didn’t observe it, it wasn’t observed.
And lastly, a real worrier. Based on now knowing the mass (maybe) of the Higgs boson, it is possible to estimate the instability of the vacuum, in effect the shakiness of nothing, in boggish terms. A recent estimate indicates a significant probability that our universe may end by an alternate universe emerging from the vacuum within our own and in effect sucking it in. And ending us in the process. The estimate of when is a long time away, but we do have to recall that this too is a random process.
I personally hypothesize that the vacuum in the skulls of some of the bogs I meet here in Greater Metropolitan Arab has already generated alternate universes that has engulfed their brains. But that too is the error of anthropomorphizing.
One of the strangest bits of physics in the annals is the dinosaur extinction meteorite strike of 66 MYA. The physics turns, not on the astronomy, but on Iridium. But the effort also displays one of the problems with physical measurements which is ranges of error and uncertainty.
I got reminded of this this morning at gym listening to a podcast (NPR) episode about new measurements that put the extinction and the impact very close together. This is admittedly for one set of samples, but it tends to strengthen the application of Occam’s razor. I was further reminded by an article [Link] I tabbed yesterday that got me to think on other matters.
The climate change caused by this strike is postulated to be the reason we are here, that the dinosaurs and much of the other life on Tellus was extinguished. But what doesn’t get talked about so much is the size relationship of the meteorite. If we take it as having a size of (approximately) 15 km x 10 km x 5 km, then we can do some size comparisons.
The volume of Tellus is approximately 1E12 km^3 and its area is approximately 5E8 km^2. Then the ratio of meteorite area to Tellus area is 3E-7, and the ratio of volumes is 7.5E-10.
Out in terms of a human body, that corresponds to a bullet massing a half gram! Proportionately that’s all it would take to end humanity as a species.
Not at gym this morning. The weather beavers have foretold all sorts of direness and FD SCP has commanded my localization until such time as she relaxes. Not that I blame her. I wasn’t keen about roaring home – maybe – a few moments from now and finding irritation, either damage to the castellum or, more probably, an absence of electric potential courtesy of Arab Electron Uncooperative’s absence of dependability.
But as the storm edge approaches, I find myself reflecting on various other matters. First, an article [Link] describing a kritik of some of the current multiverse grr brrr. Not new, I fear, but also not too loudly propagated given the current perversion of trying to force large quantities of spayed/neutered science on an uninterested boggerate. In my mind it comes back to the discussion we used to have when I was in graduate shule about how big a stochastic event has to be to split a universe. We never quite reached any stability on this matter because we were struggling with the whole conservation of mass-energy thing. Nowadays we sorta sweep that one under the rug with some mumblage about locality and information.
The multiverse idea is a popular one with science fiction writers, or at least was. I suspect it still is even though I don;t find many contemporary authors who can command my attention span – time sufficiently strongly for me to put them on the regular read list. But the fiction part of all this is fairly damning, that of communication and or travel between universes.
I have mentioned before that I don’t approve very much of the current efforts to popularize science for the masses. My primary objection is that they aren’t interested and all that is being done is annoy them. I have recently learned that too many of the authors of these works are incapable of story telling and their books are worse than boring, they are unengaging. I am reminded of the old saw about not trying to teach some skill to an animal because it is not only doomed to fail but annoys the animal.
I have no objections to having some works available for the interested, but they need to be well written and engaging and not forced on the public. And access for communication would also be good, again on an availability basis. That’s the opposite of what we have now. We have a social pressure for scientists to do “outreach” always in the form of a badly composed book or a structured presentation. Boring! Ineffective! Off-putting! I don’t see things changing, shy of some nasty extinction, but that doesn’t mean we can’t illuminate the stupidity.
Which is part of the problem with this multiverse stuff. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s almost surely irrelevant in the boggish sense. We aren’t going to go for vacation in the next universe but three and we aren’t going to exchange email with the alternate us in universe thirty-seven who married the other girl friend. Probably.
It’s that time of week again. Tab hawgin’ day. So all you reads, such as you are in number, get the left-overs from the browser refrigerator.
First of all, I note in the Register [Link] that MegaHard is blaming the sales failure of Winders Ate on the computer manufacturers? Has the grand exalter cudzu of MegaHard, whoever he is now that Bill Gates has absconded, grown a toothbrush mustache and taken to wearing an arm band and jack boots? Will Jewish code writers be blamed next?
Once more the English media comes through when the Amerikan media fails spectacularly. Of course that could have to do with the superiority of English shules in teaching English bairns how to read and rite and figger and all that not covered in Amerikan shules. They may be illegitimate tyrants but at least they don’t only instruct their children on only what is on the test. And a government test at that. If we’re going to have a test for all our shule children it needs to be a FOST.
Anyway we have to ask why would all those computer builders deliberately fornicate MegaHard. After all, MegaHard has been so good to them, requiring them to replace BIOS with a system that assures reduced sales and lots of overhead, and to use an OS that assures reduced sales and lots of overhead. So why would they spite themselves after such benevolent treatment?
But I did rather like the comparison of Winders Ate to Vister. Not that it’s original, which it isn’t but any mud smeared on the Sixth (Fifth?) Reich is a blow for freedom.
Coupled to this is a rather humorous article [Link] about how Winders is losing out to Linux, 2:1. Not that the argument is more than a sieve, like the articles about Linux’s next year on the desktop. With the desktop retrenching to people who actually produce information rather than just consume it, I am happy to be warm, dry, AMUSED!, and comforted by an OS that works well, is a joy to use, and doesn’t try to run my life.
OK, Android is rather a bit of a nag on my so-called smart phone, which isn’t smart except in the sense of pain. But my misgenetic (FOSS for bastard) combination of Ubuntu and KDE is good for me both productively and esthetically. Winders ceased to be either sometime around W2K. And no, I don’t think Linux is whipping Winders so much as MegaHard is self-destructing. But I don;t really care. Linux is like Switzerland, an oasis of sanity in a world of religionist/capitalist fanaticism.
Next, speaking of Switzerland, there is word [Link] of an experiment using a pseudo-hydrogen atom – a combination of a proton and a muon, the latter rather a fat, mentally unstable relative of the electron, to determine the diameter of the proton. I am a bit skeptical of this, mostly because of the muon. A bound proton should have a (slightly) different size than a “free” proton, or for that matter a proton all by itself in the universe. But what stumps me, and evidently everyone else, is why a proton bound to a muon should be smaller than when measured any other way? I am briefly entertaining the fielder’s mitt hypothesis that indicates that the baseball (proton) is a bit smaller as it is held in the fielder’s mitt (muon.) Hokey? Yes. Bad? Not necessarily, since all models are ‘wrong’ in science.
And while we’re on particles, I noted an article [Link] about the particle burst of 774 CE. Seems that Tellus got blasted that year by a burst of particles from a supernova (hypothesis) that caused all sorts of radioactive grrr brrrr. What makes this noteworthy is when it occurred. I searched my memory for what happened that year. Bupkus. hen I consulted a couple of history timetable references and an atlas of world history. More bupkus. About all that I could find in the history books is a mopping up of military action in England by Offa (reflecting how wonderfully well the English do at horribly embarrassing names,) and Charlemagne validating some donation to the Bishop of Rome. IOW, a microcosm of human activity: war; politics; and mysticism.
And lastly, I ran across an article [Link] about NASAl ressurecting old Saturn rocket engines for a test for future use. This grabbed my attention span for a couple of reasons. First of all, one of my coffee acquaintances tells the tale of how when the Yankee government canceled the Saturn program for political reasons, how he scrambled to hide a few of these engines rather than crush them and sell for scrap. What makes this interesting is he cozened the Yankee army into providing the storage facility. So chalk one up for an accidental benefit of the Yankee army. And a triumph over Amerikan political stupidity.
The second is that when these engines were originally being tested they shook Nawth Alibam. I can remember being in band class and the director cutting us off to sit and wiat during the test. All we could hear was the roar and the shaking of windows. Definitely not our off-key, off-time “music”. And we knew the next day all the egg ranchers on Sand Mountain would come down to lay damage claims against NASAl for unlaid eggs.
I think that’s why I have stayed in Alibam. It’s a wonderful place to make big noise, disrupt biology, and foil the depredations of politicians.
 Free and Open Source Test.
It has been another strange week. Yesterday was – I hope – the cherry on the sundae. It snowed. The weather beavers had predicted and it was actually less severe than their pretty (?) graphics – another indication of the progress of climate change and the fudge factors in their simulations? – but I have reached an age where any is almost too much. And I have to venture out into it this morning to spread seeds for the dinosaur descendants and the lords of the trees, and then on FD SCP errands.
While I’m in that mood of mind, I noted a rather strange article [Link] the other day and have had it at back of processing for a bit. It’s about a conference held in 2011 – lots of latency in the journalism; extreme poverty of ideation? – about “Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality”. Seems they gave the participants a multiple guess survey instrument and got rather large variation of answer. I reproduce an example:
I found this example a bit whacked largely because this isn’t really a physics question. If they had asked when we would have the physics to support a working quantum computer that might have been relevant but this question is about engineering and manufacturing and market economics and stuff that quantum physicists, especially good ones, aren’t qualified to answer. I also have to admit to being a bit worried about multiple guess questions since there is no assurance that the author’s set of spanning states includes my state. That’s one of the biggest weaknesses of surveys and is one of the primary reasons for small reply fractions – people get micturated when none of the answers is good enough.
Some of the other questions were a bit more meaningful:
“Do you believe that physical objects have their properties well defined prior to and independent of measurement?”, 48 per cent replied “no”, while 52 per cent replied “yes, in some cases”. A further 3 per cent said “yes in all cases” and 9 per cent were undecided (respondents were able to select more than one answer).
“What is your favourite interpretation of quantum mechanics?” had 12 possible answers. The most popular answer was the Copenhagen interpretation with 42 per cent but 18 per cent chose the many-worlds interpretation. 21 per cent admitted to having switched their interpretation several times with one respondent writing that he sometimes switched interpretations several times a day.
Note how connected these two questions are. The answer to the second one largely influence the answer to the first. If you do subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation then there is the question of what constitutes an observation. Is sentience relevant? Alternately, if you subscribe to the Popper (many worlds) interpretation, then there is the question of how big does a quantum event have to be to cause a bifurcation? And if you subscribe to the interaction interpretation, then how dense are the backward wave functions generated?
And this isn’t a matter of belief, which is something that even science journalists can’t seem to understand. It’s not some blind abiding lith, it’s something that one tests, with both thought and real experiments. It bears the same resemblance to fundamentalism that adeism does.
Besides, there is an old saying, repeated without adequate attribution by every quantum mechanics lecturer I every had, that if you can visualize QM, you are WRONG. The problem is that we visualize everything, being human, so we are always on the slippery slope of wrong and don’t know how much. Or how much is enough to be WRONG.
That’s the wonderful thing about QM. Even wrong is uncertain until we “observe” it.
Good morning at gym. Low density of folks. And the podcasts were passable, mostly end of year roll up types of things that are boring for those who have working memories – one more indication that science podcasts are mostly aimed at bogs!
One of the hot stories is a demonstration of negative temperatures in a magnetically perturbed system. [Link] The media is really being stupid about this one, prattling on and on about negative temperatures. They miss the point. We have known about negative temperatures since the time when I was an undergraduate. Lasers, and prior, masers, demonstrate this and are, to my knowledge, the source of the idea. What is important here is not that it’s a negative temperature, but that it’s in a magnetic system. Previously all the systems that have demonstrated this have been electrically or photonically perturbed/driven.
How do you get a negative temperature? Simple. In laser parlance it’s called a population inversion. On a nerdish level it’s when you whack the natural population of a (sorta) closed system so that the population of an “excited” state exceeds the population of an “unexcited” state that the excited state can decay into. The bog analogy would be having a two story house with all the people on the second floor.
And while we’re on state populations, I read [Link] that Winders Ate has fewer people using it than Winders Vister. Evidently lots of licenses were bought by computer manufacturers for W8 computers that are growing dust on store and warehouse shelves. And since these are UEFI boxes it isn’t simple to repurpose them to run Linux. Ah!, but Linux doesn’t have the same security problems Winders has so you can just turn the security checking off. And blow away that install of W8 to install Ubuntu or some other useful distribution.
And at the risk of making a pun, apparently people aren’t too “excited” about W8?
Foul day. No, I did not stay up last night, but I did awaken just before midnight and got to listen to a few muffled thuds before I dozed back off. The gym is closed today – any excuse is evidently good enough to avoid work – so I made do with the stationary bicycle in my study. That makes the bright points, namely getting to listen to science podcast episodes.
The first was a short bit about the filing of patents on toothbrushes and the problems of designing toothbrushes. The discussion of the latter confirmed what I suspected, that the mechanics needed for properly brushing teeth exceeds what is possible within degrees-of- freedom for a single toothbrush. I also suspect similar is the situation with toothpaste. And I learned, both pleasingly and appallingly, that most potents on toothbrushes are cosmetic and commercial.
I myself use three toothbrushes, one electric – a Braun – and two manuals, the latter primarily for spots between teeth. And often I think that is too many. Certainly twenty years ago that would have been an unchallenged thought.
Next, was a nice podcast episode on cooking. It started with a slur-compliment to Richard Wrangem (sp?) at Fair Hahvahd who advances the theory that cooking is why humans have intelligence. From there it was a riot of info-atoms. It seems that the cooking pot was also instrumental in changing things, shortly after it was developed about 10 KYA (coinciding approximately with the end of the Younger Dryas?) human dentition changed from being edge on in front to overlapping. And like toothbrushes, the “perfect” cooking pan is not possible – more desirements than degrees-of-freedom.
FD SCP and I have several pots and pans. My favorite is a SCANPAN (R) that I got on sale years ago and dearly enjoy for frying egg white for fried egg sandwiches. We should like more but they never seem to be on sale enough any more. I also have to wonder if the Earl of Sandwich ate fried egg sandwiches? They would have to be hard fried to not drip on the playing cards. But I fin fried egg sandwiches – soft fried – work best on toasted english muffins. The craters absorb the runny.
Thirdly, an episode on leftovers. I was thrilled to find out that the expiration dates on foodstuffs, with notably exceptions of dairy and flesh, have only to do with flavor deterioration rather than safety. The whole date thing is a scheme by the food manufacturers to waste food and get more cash flow.
Now if I can only get FD SCP to listen to that podcast?
And lastly, I listened to a new podcast [Link] from the New Yawk Times. The subject was science kits/toys then and now, mirroring an article. I have to admit to being appalled by the whole thing. Science kits were mediocre in my day – except the American Basic Science Club kits! – but they are abysmal today. No chemicals in the chemistry sets? So far as I can tell science kits have ceased to be the learning vector of nerds and introverts and have become some extrovertist social engineering activity for bogs and extroverts. In fact, the podcasters proudly bragged that the modern science kits were not for nerds and introverts! Evidently, the war on religion is also on science if we are trying to kill off all of tomorrow’s scientists.
Is his more evidence of the new feudalism?
Rain came in last night and is pattering still. I must venture into it and distribute seed for the tree mammals and the dinosaur descendants. And then settle down to what will probably be a wretched day.